Fugitive falcon found in parking lot

Griffin the gyr-saker falcon is back home and resting after a weeklong misadventure, thanks to a Shuswap Middle School secretary.

Mandy McDiarmid poses with Griffin, a gyr-saker falcon, who was found Tuesday afternoon. He slipped his tethers the week before and had been on the loose since that time. The valuable falcon is used at the as a natural deterrent to prevent birds from gathering at the Salmon Arm Landfill and Salmon Arm Airport.

Griffin the gyr-saker falcon is back home and resting after a weeklong misadventure, thanks to Dee LeCerf, a Shuswap Middle School secretary.

After school Tuesday, students went to LeCerf to tell her there was a hawk hopping around outside and had gone under one of the parent’s cars.

Calls were placed to the RCMP and SPCA in an effort to find out where the bird belonged.

LeCerf says it was a parent outside the school who said someone had been looking for a falcon and she knew it was the right bird because it had leathers on its legs.

“I got a shovel and a box and a parent gently scooted it out from under the car,” LeCerf says, noting the handle of the plastic shovel was used to coax the very weak and tired bird into the open. “He flopped around a bit trying to get away, but we held it down with the shovel; we didn’t want it to get away or get under the car again.”

With the help of the parent, LeCerf managed to get Griffin into a large box and called Mandy McDiarmid, Griffin’s owner and operator of Shuswap Birds of Prey.

“She was in tears, she was so happy to have him back,” says LeCerf. “She peeked into the box, but he was so tired; he was very still and he made no noise.”

The young Griffin broke free of his tether on Jan. 12 while doing his job of chasing birds away from the Salmon Arm Landfill.

Born in captivity and trained by McDiarmid, Griffin was a bit frightened when she retrieved him, probably because of all the action around him.

“He’s a lot happier now that he’s at home,” she says of his roomy and comfortable mew, (also known as an aviary) that includes outdoor and heated indoor spaces and good food such as his favourite quail.

“He’s doing well; he lost a bit of weight but he was a fat bird when he took off.”

Griffin is going to moult, a process that takes a few months, so he won’t be back on the job until summer. In the meantime, Chica, a female Harris hawk will take over.

McDiarmid says she would like to give “a big shout out” to the many Shuswap residents who sent pictures and reported possible sightings and, of course, the people at Shuswap Middle School who recovered Griffin.

This reminds McDiarmid of one of her long-term dreams – to establish a wildlife rescue for raptors.

“Karen Beggs, who used to run Kee-Two, said ‘Oh Mandy, watch out. That’s how I started and, in the end, I was taking in everything,’” McDiarmid laughs, noting she plans to stick with raptors and will not be ready to establish such a sanctuary in the near future.

Meanwhile, a delighted LeCerf was very happy to have helped retrieve Griffin, who was her third bird rescue at the school.

“We had a Cooper’s hawk that hit the window and a bald eagle that had a stick jammed up under his wing,” she says. “That’s my passion; I love to rescue.

“Like my mom said, it would have been right up my alley to rehabilitate wildlife.”

Salmon Arm Observer

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